Apple Watch review: saving time

The smartwatch that's supposed to jump-start the category

Apple Watch
  • Apple Watch
  • Apple Watch
  • Apple Watch
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Two sizes
  • Excellent build quality
  • Refined interface
  • Customisable
  • Water resistant

Cons

  • Premium pricing
  • A day battery life
  • Thick watch body

Would you buy this?

Smartwatches have come and gone in the lead up to Apple’s Watch. Samsung has been churning out iterations of its Gear seasonally and LG has proven to be little better with its G Watch, G Watch R and so forth. Motorola had its turn with the 360, which although looked like the watches of yesteryear, was let down by a limp Australian roll out.

All the while Apple has been studiously working on its Watch. The company has been at it for four years, striving to understand the age-old category and how its technologies can contribute. To grant the timeframe some perspective: Apple was already at work on the Watch when it was releasing the iPhone 4S.

Less like a computer, more like a timepiece

Strip Apple’s smartwatch down to its rudimentary basics and it is a watch first. The homescreen is not the application drawer like it is on iPhones, but rather the watchface. The main function of its wearable is to tell the time and that can be done with the quick flick of a wrist.

Three versions of the Apple Watch are available. The least expensive Apple Watch is $499, though pricing climbs up to $24,000 in Australia. Twenty-four thousand dollars might come off as exorbitant in the electronic space, but it blends right in as a piece of jewellery.

No other manufacturer offers a smartwatch in two sizes. This is a point of differentiation for Apple and an important one. ‘Dainty’ wrists led us to test the 38mm Apple Watch and, although colleagues find this size too small for them, it fits on us perfectly. A good way to determine the best size for you is to make sure the hinges do not exceed the width of your wrist.

Apple holds one-on-one fittings partly for this purpose. They help identify the size, finish and band of the Watch for each person. Our fitting led us to pick the mid-range ‘Apple Watch’ model pictured, fitted with the Milanese Loop and priced at $949.

What is it like to wear everyday?

Well thought out design makes the Watch a comfortable timepiece. It is small enough to blend into day-to-day activities without imposing. More often than not it will hide in the background and let you get on.

Wearing it for hours can grow tiring. A bulbous heart sensor on its underside presses into wrists rather than moulding to them. Here, functionality leads design.

Ordinary watches aren’t as thick as Apple’s wearable. The difference is in millimetres but after long, continuous wear, we found ourselves having brief breaks from the smartwatch by taking it off at our desk; something we do too with our analogue watch. Sometimes, perhaps because the Watch’s band was set too taught, the imprint of the heart sensor would be left on our skin.

The fit and finish of the Milanese Loop band is excellent, with the magnetic stainless steel offering an almost infinite range of sizes for a tailored fit.

Testing select smartwatches leaves us cringing. Outfits were often undone by some plastic rendition of a wearable. We don’t get this feeling at all from the Watch. What it is lacking in style is compensated by its cut and finish.

How to use it: The digital crown and force touch

Learning the lingo of Apple’s Watch requires little effort. The interface is largely original, borrowing cues from iOS only after they have been adopted to suit the form factor of a small screen.

This brought about some innovation on Apple’s part. The crown familiar to traditional watches has been digitised and works as a scroll wheel. It glides pages up and down and it’ll double as a back key whenever it is pressed.

The digital crown is to the Watch like the scroll wheel is to the iPod. It is simple in its design, familiar to the category and effective in sifting through data. Scrolls quick and slow will be registered in a way that is both involving and precise. By far, it is our favourite way to navigate a smartwatch.

One other button sits beneath the digital crown. It can wake the watch up from standby and brings up a menu with 12 favourite contacts — one for every hour of an analogue clock.

Familiar touch gestures are used to swipe down the notification blind, swipe up the control centre and to swipe through popular widgets.

Is it waterproof? How do you customise watch faces? Find out over the page

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Read more on these topics: iPad, Apple, ios, iPhone, smartwatch, watch, gadget, Watch Sport, Watch Edition
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